Isabella Mary Kelly (pictured above in the only known photograph of her)
sailed into Sydney
on November 17, 1834
, on board the barque
James. She said she came
because of health reasons. She
was a wealthy woman.
Kelly was born
in Dublin, probably between 1802 and 1806.
When she was
eight years old she became an orphan.
Her brother took her to
and there, Sir
William Crowder, a Justice of the High Court, became her guardian.
August 8, 1838, Kelly attended a
Crown Land Sale held at The Treasury in Sydney, purchasing 895
acres of land “near Mt. Kangat”
on the northern bank of the Manning
Isabella called her property “Mount
has been speculation over the source of the name “George”.
King George IV was long dead. The first name of Governor Gipps was
"George", but a respectful Isabella Kelly would have given it
the name of "Mount Gipps" rather than the familiar "Mount
most likely nominee for the honour was George Crowder, the youngest of
the Crowder family.
Mary Kelly is unique in the history of
New South Wales
- she was the only
single female who was a settler in her own right.
She was entirely without any bond of marriage, nor was there a
male companion in her life. She
chose a life as a settler in a remote district of the colony.
While other women may
have owned stations, and remained in
Sydney, content to relay
orders to a male superintendent, Isabella Kelly ran the station herself
and was not afraid to get her hands dirty.
stock on Isabella Kelly’s station consisted of horses, cattle, milch
cows, sheep and a few pigs. But
her specialty was horses, although
society disapproved of women breeding horses.
Australian Stud Book records Calendar,
the most famous of
her horses, as
foaled in Great Britain
in 1834, and the
Camden, who won the AJC
Homebush St Leger Stakes in 1855.
She was an excellent horsewoman, always riding side-saddle, and not
astride the horse as a man would.
Mary Kelly had very ambitious plans for Mount
At the eastern
end of the Mount
estate, on rather
hilly ground, a new township was surveyed, which she called Georgetown.
March 3, 1842, an auction was held
for blocks of land in Georgetown, but unfortunately the
auction was a dismal failure – not one block sold.
Probably the main reason for the failure was its isolation. Kelly
believed in Georgetown’s future on the basis that
would continue to be
on the main route north. The
A. A. Company owned a huge tract of land on the southern bank of the Manning
River, which they would
not allow travellers to pass through.
There was a shallow crossing of the
at Kelly’s Mount
property, which was
popularly used by people travelling up the western boundaries of the A.
A. Company’s land. Even
travellers between the two coastal towns of Port Macquarie and Port
Stephens would pass through
at that time.
Kelly was greatly disliked by many of her neighbours.
They resented a women who did “men’s work” and often
referred to her as “masculine”.
She was known to have a temper.
She would not allow men to stand over her.
1851, her house - one of the best in the district - was mysteriously
burned down while she away on business, with no hint of who was
Kelly was unjustly imprisoned in Darlinghurst Gaol for a crime she did
not commit. She later
received £1000 in compensation from the Government.
stories have been published about the “notorious” Isabella Kelly,
suggesting she cruelly whipped the convicts in her charge; that she rode
around the countryside with guns on hips, and chased bushrangers.
All are completely false.
Kelly finally left the Valley in 1865, after twenty-seven years
residence. She was a female
pioneer in her own right who never received the credit she deserved.
main story of Isabella Mary Kelly began in 1854 when she sub-let the
Brimbin property to Charles Skerrett, who turned out to be a con
is a story of stolen cattle and forged documents which resulted in
Isabella Kelly's wrongful imprisonment in Darlinghurst Gaol
is a story of colonial injustice which reached from the lowest rung of
the justice ladder, the local untrained
Magistrates, to the highest rung, the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.